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The Dreaded Ingrown Toenail

An ingrown toenail occurs when the end of the nail grows into the skin.  This can be a one time occurrence or a chronic condition.  As a podiatry practice we see this problem most commonly in the big toe, however it may occur in the lesser toes as well. 

Ingrown toenails affect people of all ages, from infants to the geriatric population.  One may experience a sharp sensation or throbbing pain in the toe. Pain may be accompanied by redness, swelling, and drainage.  Any pressure, even that from a bed sheet, can cause a great deal of pain.

Common causes of ingrown toenails include a misshapen nail (which can be inherited), trauma (dropping something or someone stepping on your toe, sports injuries), tight fitting shoes and improper nail trimming.

Treatment will depend upon whether infection is present or not. Signs of infection include pain, redness, swelling of the toe and possible drainage, either blood, pus or both.

  • Non Infected Ingrown Toenail: removal of the ingrowing nail with or without local anesthesia. Local care with soaking and wrapping the toe with antibiotic ointment and a band aid.
  • Infected Ingrown Toenail: removal of the ingrowing nail with drainage of infection under local anesthesia. Local care with soaking and wrapping the toe with antibiotic ointment and a band aid.  Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed.

People with diabetes, neuropathy or PAD (peripheral arterial disease) need to be extra cautious with ingrown toenails as they are more susceptible to infection and complications.

Patients who suffer from chronic ingrown toenails may want to consider permanent removal of the portion of the nail that ingrows.  This is accomplished by either burning the nail root with a chemical or surgically excising (cutting out) the nail root.

Below are a some things you can do to prevent ingrown toenails:

  • Proper nail trimming.  Cut your nails straight across, not rounded.  Be sure to also leave some length to the nails.  Cutting them too short will predispose you to an ingrown.
  • Proper shoes
    • Have your feet measured to ensure that you are wearing the correct size.  Shoes that are too small put pressure on the nails which causes them to grow into the skin.
    • Choose a shoe that has a wide, square or round to box.  Avoid shoes with pointy or narrow toe boxes that put excess pressure on the toes.

Please call the office at 856-599-0133 if you have an ingrown toenail or are experiencing any of the symptoms described above. Attempting to “cut out” the nail yourself at home may lead to further pain and infection.